The metaphor of the grail maiden
The “Eludcidations,” an anonymous prologue to Chretien de Troyes’ Le Conte del Graal, relates a curious tale about how the Land of Logres lost the “Voices of the Wells.” This Land of Logres, Merlin’s Isles of Greater Britain, is a curious place, a Celtic kingdom where the inner world and the outer world overlap and intermingle. Beautiful maidens live by the sacred wells and offer travelers sustenance from golden cups; the realm is at peace and life flourishes.
This Celtic paradise was destroyed by a sex crime, we are told. Evil King Amangons (his name suggests “a man of stones,” or a man with balls, an alpha-male deep in the throes of testosterone poisoning) ravished one of the maidens, held her captive and stole her golden bowl. This set an example and soon all the males were out raping the sacred maidens and before too long the peaceful and fertile realm became a wasteland. The springs and wells dried up, the land became infertile, the animals disappeared, flowers withered and the people faded away.
This is the background of the Grail story. The barren wasteland is the result of a lost contact with the source of life itself, symbolized by the abundantly flowing well or spring. For all the chivalric posturing of the Grail knights, the story is ultimately how the lost link to the female sovereignty of the land can be re-established. This is the true goal of the Grail Knight, the secret answer to the question: “Whom does the Grail serve?”
As the last decade of the twentieth century totters on toward the new millennium, as TV shows announce the end of history on their introductory voice-overs, this eight hundred year-old poem seems to be speaking directly to us.
Our modern psychology tells us of lost wells of the unconscious, and the significance of their loss. Our century has seen more incredible images of the wasteland than any other in history. And seen them live and in living color as it happens anywhere in the world. McCluhan’s Global Village has turned out to be a global slum, a technological collective labor camp where the Wasteland (TM) is institutionalized by the unassailable fact of an unfillable void, an ache so deep that all the consumer goods in the world can never touch it.
To us, the dwellers in this techno-slum, the grail maiden, holding her golden bowl of redemption and rejuvenation, looks suspiciously like the girl at the drive-thru window dispensing Coke in a bright yellow cardboard cup. Perhaps for us, even the Holy Grail and the Paradise of Logres would resemble nothing more than a thrill ride at the latest theme park.
Our rage at this lack, this wound so deep and so constant we’ve forgotten we’re in pain, blinds us to the reality around us. For us, the Grail Knight is Dirty Harry or Batman, endlessly fighting “evil” down in the heart of the wasteland, whose only question is “Do you feel lucky, punk?”
However, the metaphor used in the “Elucidations,” the grail maiden as the holder of female sovereignty over the land, cuts to the core of our dilemma. Somehow, if we are to escape the techno-slum wasteland, we must find a way to recover the lost “Voices of the Wells.” The crime of King Amangons is recreated everyday, but our Dirty Harry Parzivals are all too often left with nothing but corpses.
In the absence of an adequate grail knight, the importance of the grail maiden increases. If we can’t reach out to her, she will reach out to us. There have been many such approaches in the last hundred and fifty years. The appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the grotto of Lourdes echoed the return of the grail maidens; at Fatima in Spain in 1917, the BVM performed wonders before crowds numbering over a hundred thousand. Even Medjugoria’s BVM appearances continued in the midst of ethnic cleansing and civil war, as if the lost female sovereignty was determined to assert her presence before it was too late.
Last month, as this is written, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared on the cover of Newsweek as the Church debates elevating her officially to co-redeemer status. Just as the author of the “Elucidations” struggled with the role of women in society and religion eight hundred years ago, we struggle with the same issues today.
The medieval author tried to explain the loss of the feminine in a mythological framework derived from pagan folklore. Today, we explain it in terms of psychology and sociology. These disciplines however do not satisfy the way the myth does. Myth can give us more than information; it supplies wisdom, that is a way to interpret a personal and practical value from our understanding.
Unfortunately, myth in the wasteland has been degraded to just another consumer venue. For a price, the girl at the drive-thru can supply you with your very own mythological action figure right along with your happy meal. In this context, folklore and ancient truths melt into pop culture tabloid icons. Culture then becomes a comic book canon of super men and wonder women, all sleek with surface glitz and sexual power. These archetypal flash points jab us with bursts of emotional intensity, rushes of pure feeling, without supplying us with any sort of perspective. At this level, all of us dwellers in the wasteland are like junkies, endlessly searching for the next sensational emotional fix.
Keeping these ideas in mind, we can turn to the death of the feminine in our time.
Let us remember that the media in the techno-slum fulfills certain specific tasks. It provides everyone with a sense of belonging, and, at the same time, alienates us from our basic human connections. It lets us participate, vicariously, in the great events of our time, and, at the same time, it limits our personal understanding of any event to the surface of a phosphor dot screen. Reality is cheapened, degraded, and the wasteland comes to seem natural, like plastic flowers in a restaurant.
And yet, the spring can still emerge from the blasted rock-slag. Even media myths have the power to change us, if we can but internalize their meaning and make it ours.
Murdering innocence: the myth of virgin sacrifice
I was thirteen when the great horror movie fascination took hold. Trying to understand fear, I proceeded to scare myself silly with an endless diet of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and all the other monster motifs the mid sixties could provide. After a while, the make believe horrors began to pale. But, I can vividly remember one dark late night in front of the TV screen when I found something that really shook me.
It was a scene in the classic Frankenstein. The monster, stumbling around loose, comes on a young girl playing at the edge of a pond. I had of course seen the movie many times, but somehow here was a new scene, one I couldn’t remember having seen before.
The monster plays with the girl; they throw flower petals in the water. And then, suddenly, tragically, the monster misunderstands and throws the girl into the water. My thirteen year old self was chilled to the bone. Evil was impersonal, random, and even well intentioned. Nothing felt safe, nothing could be safe, until some sort of balance was re-established. And yet I knew that no balance was possible.
I had seen a Truth, and it was not comforting. Innocence was no protection.
Much later, I was able to explain all this to myself. Frankenstein’s monster looks a lot like modern man, patched together from fragments of the dead past and animated only by electricity, the electronic media. This monster can never find love, its only response to innocence is to smash it. Science’s orphan, the monster searches for a soul and ends up destroying its creator, an aptly prophetic metaphor for science itself.
The monster and his bride are the perfect inhabitants of the wasteland. They no longer notice or care about its soullessness, they are comfortable members of the collective labor camp’s techno-consumer class.
And then, the monster and his bride have a child, a new born full of innocence and wonder…
Mary Shelly had her prophetic vision in 1823. Thirty six years later the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, New York and all the other industrial capitals were full of “Frankensteins.” The industrial revolution pulled people off the land and forced them into crowded cities. Like rats in an over-crowded maze, the basic qualities of “human-ness” frayed and dissolved altogether.
This was the “message” of the first serial murderer media superstar, Jack the Ripper. Jack, by dramatizing the brutalization of innocence in the slums of Whitechapel, held a mirror up to the whole Victorian world view. The reflection was not pretty, but it became utterly fascinating as the last century drew to a close. The entire Victorian world of nineteenth century science and smug social complacency faced a fate that made the violence of Jack the Ripper seem completely insignificant.
The Great War, with its mechanized slaughter of innocence on all levels, turned the wasteland into an institution. The post-war imagination found the idea of re-animating corpses and the soulless destruction of innocence to be contemporary and charged with significance. Hence, the popularity of the classic film “Frankenstein.”
The monster became an icon, an archetypal shadow persona at the core of modern culture. And what of the monster’s children?
In 1860, Amboise Tardieu published a paper on what we would now call the battered child syndrome. He drew attention to the high incident and tragic effects of childhood sexual assault, and was immediately discredited by his academic colleagues who restored the tradition of blaming the victim by focusing on the possible ulterior motives for the “false” accusations.
In 1896, Freud claimed that early childhood seduction was the central basis (he called it “the source of the Nile”) for neurotic hysteria. He was scornfully attacked and redeemed himself only by repudiating his observations. Reinterpreting the painful disclosures of his patients, Freud abstracted his findings into a theory of psychic sexuality that held that fantasy was more important than reality. This retraction reinforced a climate of blindness. The reality of sexual assault retreated behind the fantasies of Oedipus and penis envy.
In 1932, Sandor Ferenczi, Freud’s favorite pupil, published his own findings on the importance of childhood sexual assault. Even Freud denounced him and his professional credibility plummeted. Ferenczi’s finest work, pointing out that childhood sexual assault could cause helplessness, unquestioning enslavement, introjected guilt and shame, identification with the abuser, revictimization and the splitting of the identity into mutually antagonistic fragments, was banished to the obscurity of a footnote in the history of behavioral science.
A pattern emerges. Every 35 years or so, medical science discovers the importance of childhood sexual trauma, and just as quickly repudiates and denies its discovery. In the case of Freud, (reinforced by his own childhood abuse) its discoverer and its suppresser was the same individual. This insistent ignoring of childhood sexual victimization helps us to define a subtle cognitive phenomenon called nesciance.
From the Latin nescire, literally “not to know,” the concept itself comes from medieval theology and refers to those things, chiefly the doings of God, about which we can, by definition, know nothing. We might define it as deliberate, beatific ignorance. Such as the Germans indulged in while the Jews were hauled off to the ovens. Our historic failure to grasp the destructive significance of sexual abuse seems just such a willful ignorance. We might compare it to the Scholastic defense of the flat earth theory in the face of evidence to the contrary. Much intellectual effort was expended trying to explain such unwanted discoveries away, but eventually a round earth image won out.
Following our pattern, the mid 1960’s saw a re-appraisal of childhood abuse. The battered child syndrome was again described, this time in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Even though Dr. Kempe, the chief author of the study, was criticized at the time for provoking hysteria with his “unprecedented” speculations, child abuse has never quite been repressed during this thirty five year cycle. It did however take fifteen years before sexual abuse was recognized apart from physical abuse.
And now, as the cycle closes out, the pressure mounts for the relief of a nescient relapse. We long to forget all about it once again, to go back to that blissful ignorance and destructive secrecy. Perhaps our society would indeed have accomplished this deeply felt unconscious drive. Except for the power of that external collective consciousness — the media — to crystallize archetypal images, our culture might have been able to forget its on-going virgin sacrifice, the slaughter of innocence inherited by the monster’s children.
Over Christmas 1996, in an upper class neighborhood of quintessentially yuppie Boulder, Colorado, the act coincided with the archetype. Six year old beauty queen Jon Benet Ramsey was murdered in her own home. The crime was made to look like a botched kidnapping, and the fumbling of the local police created an unsolvable problem. More than two years after the murder, it looks as if there will never be enough physical evidence to make an arrest.
Society’s last public sacrifice of innocence, the Susan Smith case, had been straight forward with clear-cut villains and victims. White Trash Mom Drowns Kids To Be With Mill Owner’s Son — a made-for-the-tabloids scenario if ever there were one. It was easy, in that case, to ignore the factor of sexual trauma and its impact on Susan Smith’s behavior. Much simpler just to hate her, and so her prison suffering has become a tabloid genre all its own.
But, from the very beginning, the Jon Benet Ramsey case was different. First of all, there were those pictures… A perky little girl, made up to seem older than just adult, danced and sang in the pageant videos that quickly became the staple image of thousands of news clips. She looks like a little doll, a little sexual robot, as she does her primps and turns. It is vaguely unsettling, as if we are seeing something that we shouldn’t see.
And yet, voyeuristically, we can not turn away. The media in this case has turned us all into perpetrators.
Then, there was the nature of the crime itself. Nothing about it made sense. The kidnapping angle seemed strange, and grew even stranger when Mr. Ramsey found Jon Benet’s body many hours later in the basement. The Ramsey family retreated behind the protection of heavy duty legal muscle and the case became fair game for the media. It would be five long months before the Ramseys spoke again to the police. During that time, the court of public opinion would try the case and find both Mom and Dad guilty.
Fortunately, I don’t have to assess the merits of the case. My interest lies in the public’s reaction. What is it that makes Jon Benet more than child abuse poster girl of the week? Why does this grip us the way it does?
Novelist James Ellroy, in his memoir My Dark Places, gives us an important clue. Ellroy’s obsessive search for his mother’s murderer leads him to re-open the case with an 800 number tip line. As the case gathered publicity, calls began to come in from women who thought their fathers could have been the murderer. When interviewed, all of these women told virtually the same story. “The women were betrayed and abused,” Ellroy tells us. “They knew their fathers were rapists and killers at heart.” While they may not have killed Ellroy’s mother, these men are representative samples of the monster himself, seen through the eyes of his children. Ellroy concludes that these women were trying to write “the oral history of ravaged kids in our time.”
Jon Benet, through her too adult vulnerability and the unresolved nature of her death, symbolizes all the ravaged kids, the dead and the living dead. If John and Patsy Ramsey could be the monster and his bride, then it could be any of us; perhaps, in our hearts, all of us. The Jon Benet Ramsey case forces our unwilling interaction. We are jarred, shocked, stirred and staggered by its implications.
When John and Patsy went public last spring, their TV appearance turned into a grisly reversal of Susan Smith’s fraudulent appeals. Except, we wanted to believe Susan. Even those who wanted to believe the Ramseys found their reserve disquieting. We are left with a terrible sense of suspicion that feels like guilt.
Innocence is murdered once again. The anonymous abuser, the monster father whose face we can never quite make out, has struck again and like so many times in the past will go unpunished.
The virgin sacrifice, as an archetype, acts as a psychic safety valve, allowing the repressed emotions produced by childhood sexual trauma to be scapegoated by the community. (The Minotaur eats only virgins.) Jon Benet is a new formulation of the archetype. The circumstances of her murder acts as a perfect projection screen onto which we can externalize our deepest fears. Such as innocence is no protection against the horror.
Life and death in fairyland: the myth of celebrity
Jon Benet Ramsey’s innocence killed her; Diana Spencer’s innocence made her a princess. Both became celebrities, one in death and the other dead from it. They are sisters of the sacrifice, these two.
And yet, in Diana’s case, something more seems at work.
In death she became the slain grail maiden, the lost female sovereignty of the land. The Queen bowed to the Goddess as the Princess’ casket passed. Suddenly, we are in deep archetypal waters. England, after all, remains the green and fertile hills of the Land of Logres.
In the final pages of Mallory’s Le Morte D’arthur, the last and grandest medieval reworking of the “Matter of Britain,” Sir Bedevere is instructed to take Excalibur, the magical sword that symbolizes Arthur’s authority as king, and return it to the “Lady of the Lake,” the grail maiden of sovereignty. At first he resists, but Arthur, with almost his dying breath, insists that it be done. Bedevere complies, flinging the sword out over the lake where the Lady catches it, salutes with a flourish and then Excalibur is gone.
Buried on a small island in a lake at Althorp, the Spencer family estate, Diana is even now being referred to as a new “Lady of the Lake.” Having lived a fairytale life, the Princess re-awakened a myth with her death. For a moment, the world grieved for the death of our collective anima, the female spirit of life itself.
Sex crimes and celebrity go hand in hand, from Henry VIII to O. J. Simpson. Both of these examples were celebrities first, kings and athletes being natural foci for public attention. Both possessed gargantuan egos and suffered from a consequent disregard of public niceties such as laws and ethics. Henry, being king, was able to legislate his murders; OJ acted in the more direct Right Man role of dispenser of vengeance. We can think of these two as the King Amangons-like bookends of our modern patriarchal, authoritarian age.
While there are components of sex and violence embedded within our fairytales, (see “Beauty and the Beast,” Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Hansel and Gretel” for a sample of folkloric sex crimes) it is hard to see the sex crime at the core of Princess Diana’s fairytale life and death. However, an obsessive voyeurism on the part of the public, bordering on an hysterical mania for details of the Princess’ private life, can be considered as a type of remote controlled stalking.
The old cartoon show “Rocky and Bullwinkle” often featured a segment call “Fractured Fairytales.” The saga of Charles and Diana is worthy of the title. “Once upon a time, in a small island kingdom, lived a Prince with big ears and excellent polo skills. His mother, the Queen, who had never emotionally recovered from the loss of the Empire, looked up from tea one day and decreed that it was time the Prince was married. The Prince replied that he was in love with that long nosed horsey faced divorced woman whom his mother despised. Displeased, the Queen said never mind her, the monarchy needs an heir and that means you need a good aristocratic girl from solid breeding stock.
“Since of course no one ever argued with the Queen, the search began. Actually it wasn’t a very long search, there not being that many girls of good morals and good breeding to be found in the kingdom. The Prince sorted through the very small pile and chose the prettiest of the lot. They had met of course — everyone met everyone else in that garden party world — but the Prince had never really noticed her.
“Once selected, with her morals officially certified, the Prince proceeded to sweep the young girl off her feet and into the royal coach. He proposed, she accepted, and a great sigh of relief arose from the palace.”
As soon as Charles and Diana announced their engagement, she became fair game for the press. Her very first picture, while still working at the day care center, showed a lovely young girl innocently posing for the photographers. They of course had positioned her so that the sun shone through her thin cotton skirt and they got a good cheese-cakey shot of her legs.
And so it went.
The whole world watched their wedding. Millions of little girls saw Diana’s wedding as the consummation of a Walt Disney fantasy; “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” done in living color from Westminster Abbey. Diana became the collective’s icon of the last princess.
What value could the symbol of a princess have in the wasteland? How would the monster’s children, the dwellers in the techno-slum, respond to an ancient folkloric symbol of grace and purity, an echo of that ancient sovereignty of the land?
The public responded with a mixture of admiration, cynicism and voyeurism. It was easy to admire her combination of innocence and elegance, that was expected of a princess after all. The cynicism grew out of a need to possess this Princess, to have her be one of us. A sense of almost sexual predation grew out of this need. Our, the techno-collective’s, desire to consume our icons whole grew to staggering proportions in the case of the Princess.
Here was a women who had to go on national television and admit to her affairs, describe her strange three-cornered marriage and generally tell us, the public, things that our best friends seldom share. We consumed it all and the need grew even greater. Her marriage dissolved, in public, and we wanted every detail, like some obsessed lover watching his ex’s house and collecting license numbers.
Even after the divorce, when she was no longer Her Royal Highness, she was still the Princess, our Princess. She used our fascination to promote good works, such as AIDS research and land mine prohibition. We applauded her charity only slightly less than we drooled over her latest romance. The fairytale continued. The Princess found love in the arms of a handsome and sophisticated Playboy and the world watched them romp, playfully sexual, in the Mediterranean sun.
The public shuddered with tabloid lust, and the Princess and the Playboy became the hottest story of the summer. Events began to move toward their climax in a highway tunnel under the City of Light. Desiring intimacy, but finding only more and more frenzied photographers, the happy couple slipped off to Paris for a romantic weekend. They were spotted and trailed to the Ritz. Rather than face the press, the couple decided on an elaborate ruse. Their usual car and driver would act as a decoy, while they slipped out the back with a car from the hotel.
Nothing quite worked that night. The photographers were not entirely fooled by the ruse. A few waited near the rear entrance, Fiats and scooters close by, shadowing the big Mercedes parked out back. The couple decided to try and out run them and the chase was on.
A surveillance camera at the Ritz caught the last few seconds before the Princess and her lover left. We see them sweep through the back foyer and out. The princess is caught as she goes out the door. Dodi is behind her and she is looking to her left at someone holding the door open for her. She smiles, the shy friendly smile of a happy women on an exciting date. The camera blinks and she is gone.
Was she smiling at the driver, bombed on booze and pills and grinning in awe, or was it perhaps the maitre’d, thinking of the bonus his quick thinking in this matter would gain from his boss?
A few minutes later, the Princess would lie dying in the wreck of the Mercedes while the photographers snapped off flash shots. Did she smile then, we wonder?
In a very real way, the wasteland had claimed its victim. That is the value of a princess, ultimately, to a world of institutionalized Wastelands. She makes the perfect victim.
If there is a moral to this fractured fairytale, it would have to be that celebrity is a form of victimization. To become famous is to become the focus of the techno-collective, that all consuming ego machine spinning out of control across a wasteland of fragmentation and dislocation. Diana could neither escape nor transform her victimization, and so ultimately the process transformed and transfigured her. Her senseless death seemed to sum up all the frustrations of our collective unconsciousness.
The grief became a flood and then a torrent because the death of the Princess allowed us to grieve for all the dead feminine archetypes, as well as our own sense of disconnection from the female spirit of the land. We mourned the death of our collective anima, as we mourned the passing of the Princess.
Sanctity and celebrity: the media sainthood of Mother Theresa
On a bus trip across the province of Uttar Pradesh in northern India, I became a Buddhist.
India is a land of vast and primeval suffering. There is no way to prepare for it, and its onslaught usually precipitates an automatic emotional shut-down. For me, there was no way to simply shut out the sights of suffering on every street corner, so I adopted the compassionate detachment of the Buddha. I tried to find a way to understand such awesome pain.
Mother Theresa had a different reaction. To her the poor of Calcutta was the body of Jesus, and alleviating their suffering with kindness and love was the ultimate act of worship. She loved the poor and the dying, offering up their suffering to her savior, the very being of compassion, Jesus Christ.
The act of love was her response to the horrors of the wasteland.
She came to Calcutta just after Partition and Independence had destroyed its economy and filled up its slums with refugees. Hundreds died every night on the streets, and it was among these poorest of the poor that Mother Theresa found her calling. She founded a religious order, and slowly grew famous. By the mid 1980’s, she was an international figure.
The great, near great and the merely curious found their way to her mission house in Calcutta. They went away with a little less money, perhaps, but profoundly moved by the experience. As she became more famous, she used her public exposure to expand her mission activities. Sometimes, she was criticized for her use of the media and her willingness to take money from dubious sources. Mother Theresa ignored the criticism and went right on loving the poor.
When Princess Diana died, Mother Theresa said that she admired her and found her to be just like every other woman. Somehow, this felt right, the saint grieving for the Princess. It added a spiritual legitimacy to our grief.
A week later, Mother herself dropped dead. It was not unexpected, everyone around her had thought she would die back in April. It did not lessen the sense of loss. Calcutta, and all of India, seemed stunned.
The world watched with nerves still raw from Diana’s funeral as the lines formed in Calcutta. One young girl from the mission, speaking on American radio, seemed to sum it all up: “Who will love us now,” she asked? “Who will touch me with love and pat my head in the morning?”
Perhaps we paid more attention to Mother Theresa’s death because of a faint sense of guilt at the exuberance of grief over Diana. If so, that’s a good thing. Mother Theresa was an icon of good, an archetype of love, and we should have paid attention, to her and her message. The Wasteland never consumed Mother Theresa. Her simple piety and austere lifestyle seemed quaint to the collective techno-consciousness, her message honored but ultimately incapable of being co-opted. Her passing saddens us, not because we feel a sense of media withdrawal, but because her loss diminishes the world.
Sanctity and celebrity is a heady mixture, as proven by Jim Bakker and his ilk. Mother Theresa was no TV evangelist, promoting the poor as a way to get rich. She lived her calling, dwelt each day inside her sanctity, and celebrity was just another tool to use in the work. Her fame, like her spare dress, faded sweater, two pairs of sandals, a bowl and a rosary, her worldly goods, was left behind when she died.
Over time, the Church will decide on her sainthood, that is, her closeness to God and her ability to intercede in our behalf. Whatever the Church decides, the people of Calcutta already know that she was The Mother.
Perhaps, for her, that’s enough.
The reality of the dying anima
Many years ago, back in the early ’70s, I had a very disturbing dream.
I was wandering in a portion of my dreamscape that I called the Old City, when I found a sheltered and sunken garden tucked away in some ruins. Edged by tall cedars, the garden was rank with overgrowth and disuse and filled with vine encrusted classical statues. As I stood examining a nymph, the wind changed, the light fell and all the statues began to stir. They came to life, shook off their tangled growth, and looked at me in surprise. They said that the Mother had called them, and that they must answer her call. I wanted to go with them, and so they flew me away, up into a throng of strange beings, all dancing and cavorting and flowing through the air.
We flew toward a huge mountain, and as we flew, more and more streams of beings appeared, all heading for the mountain. Great bands of bright beings circled the mountain, and spiraled down into a bowl-like stadium near the summit. The space was vast, plush with grass and terraced into gentle steps for sitting and reclining. It filled quickly and then everyone fell silent, waiting.
I was never sure when She appeared, just as I was never sure exactly what She said. I looked up and there She was, floating in the space above the packed stadium. She was clothed from head to feet in a covering of browns and blues and greens. A shawl was pulled down tightly across her head, covering her face. A feeling of bottomless loving kindness emanated from her and swept over the crowd.
After a while, I realized She was speaking. I couldn’t quite make out the words, but the meaning was crystal clear.
She said that her children were killing her and that if She died, if Her spirit departed, then there would be no life left in the world. Mankind would not die immediately. It would exist in a lifeless state of imitation existence where nothing grew or flowered or came to fruition. It would be a stagnant, stale, death-in-life world. Mankind would struggle on toward final extinction, never knowing that the tragedy was of their own making.
I woke up in a cold sweat, scared enough to join Greenpeace.
The dream came back to me as I watched first one funeral, then the other. The feminine is dying all around us, and the symbolism is not encouraging.
The “Elucidations” inform us that “these great wrongs will never be redeemed in worldly time.” Its anonymous author also warns about the techno-slum and its monstrous inhabitants, describing “a pitiable people” who made strongholds and castles over the sacred wells but did them no service. We are told that they founded a rival order of chivalry, called the Knights of the Rich Company.
Once again, this strangely prophetic poem rings true. The crime of King Amangons haunts us still. All the inhabitants of the wasteland are his descendants. We continue to smash and grab, rape and pillage, what would be given naturally in response to the question: “For whom should the cup be poured?”
The slaughter of innocence goes on as our psyche bleeds out and overloads. The feminine soul of the world, the sovereignty of the land itself, is about to take back its authority. The lady of the lake has come back to demand the return of Excalibur. To find the Court of Joy, where the lost Voices of the Wells sing, we must embrace love. Mother Theresa found her joy in the slums of Calcutta, the deepest darkest pit of the Wasteland. The knights and ladies of the “Elucidations” were bound to travel in common, having adventures until they at last found the Court of Joy.
We are bound to our collective anima, fragmented and dying as it is, until we can find the love for ourselves that will allow us to awaken from the nightmare of the Wasteland. I only hope we can find it in time. When She dies, all hope dies, and life becomes a true wasteland.
Death of the Feminine Update – 3/2/98
Six months ago, I wrote an article for my own amusement and edification on what I perceived to be the death of major feminine archetypes, JonBenet Ramsey, Princess Diana and Mother Theresa.
I sent the article to friends who posted it on the web. I received a few comments, and eventually interest began to fade away.
But strange things keep happening. Elton John received a KCBE and the right to be Sir Elton; a year passed since JonBenet died and the tabloids keep her alive with stories such as “JonBenet’s Clone” and still no arrests are made; Princess Diana’s become a saint and her death actually seems to have changed the British monarchy — for the first time, any royal eldest child, regardless of sex, is considered the heir to the throne — while Mother Theresa has faded into Catholic Obscurity.
And so, the process of tabloid archetypal reality creation marches on.
For instance, there is the Lewinsky Affair, alleged that is at this point. Take one bouncy Val-Gal with large, uh, ambitions and one pressure-heavy, power-zippered over-achiever with the sexual morals of a Southern Baptist with a taste for the spice of sin and you have one kind of disaster or another looming as inevitably as the Titanic’s iceberg. Given all that, the question remains: What was it about this story that turned the collective Victorian Gentleman of the press into a slavering peepshow junkie and forced half of America to explain to their kids what “oral sex” could possibly be?
Our lost princess, our dead mother and our sacrificed virgin have all been replaced by the Bimbo Goddess and the Zipper of Power. When the feminine archetypes have been killed, what’s left is a masculine fantasy of abasement and promiscuity. Without a sense of the Goddess, all women are just convenient sperm receptacles.
And so, like some real life “Penthouse” letter, the media lovingly details the dirt and Monica, smiling and hugging the President, joins the mugshot images of Diana and JonBennet. While it is unlikely that we will see another Mother Theresa or even a Princess Diana again soon, we can be all too sure that we will see more and more JonBenets and Monicas.